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Raimond Goerler on: Rescuing Byrd
Raimond Goerler Q: To what extent did Byrd ask to be rescued?

RG: The rescue of Byrd is itself a drama. Byrd could not and did not want to order a rescue because to do so would have meant that a party of men would have had to travel through the Antarctica night, risk their lives on crevices, get lost trying to rescue him. Byrd had on three occasions risked his own life rescuing people from sea. He was not the kind of person who willingly ordered others to try to rescue him. By the same token, he was deeply attached to his family and to the objectives of the expedition, that of course he had personalized into all these personal loyalty oaths and recognized that if he did die, then things would very likely unravel,the financial things, the leadership of the expedition. So he's very much torn. He can't put men at risk but they're at risk. So, it's a delicate maneuvering to stage a rescue to get others to develop the idea of a rescue for him. And that's really how it transpires.


Q: So, he asked not specifically for the rescue but he encourages the trip, right?

RG: Yes, Byrd encourages Thomas Poulter, his second in command to make an expedition in the Antarctica winter for meteorological and aurora observations and to make that field trip in the vicinity of his cabin. This he freely confesses would enable him to get back early and that you know he needed to get, he wanted to get back because of expedition problems, finances, etc., but did not clearly state to Poulter that his health was in jeopardy.


Q: What kind of pressure did it put on Murphy to know how serious the situation was and why was he indirect about ordering the others to rescue Byrd?

RG: Charles Murphy was Byrd's radio link and probably knew more than anybody the circumstances at Advance Base. Murphy too, knew that Byrd did not want to put anybody's life at risk. But, by the same token, wanted Byrd back. So it's a very awkward situation for Murphy. Murphy's also in communication with Byrd's wife. So this ah this is an extremely stressful time for him as well.


Q: What does Murphy do to finally change the mixed...

RG: Well, Murphy orchestrates meetings with the senior staff including Peter Demas who becomes one of the rescue members. Demas has been involved with Byrd for a long time, all the way back from the North Pole flight. Demas quite shrewdly interprets this as really a message from Byrd to please rescue me but I can't quite call for a rescue. It wouldn't be right of me to do so. And, I think that is the telling line that Demas has read through Byrd's non-communication, if you will to the whole team that this is really a rescue mission and it's needed.

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